Limber pine

Kootenay National Park

Quick facts

Height 3 to 15 m
Needles in clumps of 5
Cones oblong
Lifespan up to 1000 years
Status: Endangered

limber pine cones

"It is better to bend than to break." Limber pine takes this proverb seriously. It gets its name from its flexible branches designed to withstand snow and ice.

In B.C., this tree is found scattered along the west slopes of the southern Rockies. It grows on rocky outcrops at the south end of Kootenay National Park.

Limber pine need help to spread their wingless seeds. The Clark’s nutcracker provides that help. It uses its sharp pointy beak to pluck the seeds out of the cones, eats some and then stores the leftovers in the ground for later. The seeds it forgets to collect grow into new trees.

Where can you see limber pine? 

Limber pine mostly grows at low elevations and is only found at the south end of the park. Look for these long-needled trees in Sinclair Canyon high above the Radium hot pools.

Why is the limber pine in danger?

Limber pine is threatened by:

  • White pine blister rust, an introduced fungus that affects all 5 needled pines
  • Mountain pine beetle, a native species whose population has exploded in recent years
  • Fire suppression, which has created denser forests with fewer open spaces for this shade-intolerant species
  • Climate change

What are we doing to help this species?

Parks Canada is helping to recover limber pine in a number of ways:

  • Creating a rust-resistant forest: seeds are collected from trees that are naturally resistant to white pine blister rust, sprouted in a nursery and planted back into the park.
  • Using prescribed fire to clear spaces for limber pine to grow.
  • Putting pheromone patches on trees to deter mountain pine beetle. These chemicals signal that the tree is already full of beetles.
prescribed burn in progress

Learn more

Species at Risk Public Registry – Species profile: Limber Pine

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